I love the idea of a picnic- Lounging outside, kids running around playing, a nice shady spot and delicious food. But I’ve been to plenty of picnics that are filled with sticky messes, no shade, bugs and something we forgot to bring – like the bottle opener for the drinks. So being from a huge sports family, I know that the best defense is a good offense. The best way I’ve found to pack and pull off a great picnic is to plan ahead – make 2 lists:
1) Food and drinks to bring and how they will be packed
2) Equipment needed
First things first – decide where you will be picnicking and what accommodations for picnickers there are. For example, are you going to an area that has picnic tables or will you be at the beach? How much help will you have bringing your supplies? If you are going with a group, you most likely will have helpers to carry items to an area. If you are one grownup with a couple of kids, you might want to scale back items that you want to bring. Will there be shade or would it be a good idea to bring a pop up shade tent or umbrella.
Here’s a useful Picnic checklist with some suggestions on what to bring:
Food and Drinks
Easy to eat foods are ideal for picnics. These include all kind of finger foods like: Sandwiches, wraps, chicken strips, hot dogs and hamburgers, You might want to have two kinds of main dish items like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids and chicken wraps for the adults. Only you know your group so decide what you want to bring. Avoid adding mayo to sandwiches. You can purchase packets of mayo from most grocery store deli sections and add them to your sandwich right before you eat. That will keep your food fresher longer. Check out ourChicken strips recipe- it's delish!
If you decide to make sandwiches with lettuce and tomato – keep those items ready to use in separate bags and add them right before you eat. This will keep your sandwiches from getting soggy.
Side dishes can be simple like fresh fruit, chips, corn on the cob or elaborate like pasta salad or broccoli salad. Avoid items like mayo based potato salads that might spoil out in the heat. Check out our Fireworks corn & Pineapple salad or our red fruit salad.
Those are things like: ketchup, mustard, mayo, dip, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes, olives. Think about what you are bringing and make sure you pack anything you want to accompany your main or side dishes.
Kids and adults love dessert. Try to choose a dessert that is easy to eat without mess. Cookies are wonderful, as well as hand pies. Check out this Kidfunideas recipe for Cherry hand pies. Kids love to help make them and they are quick, simple and tasty. Avoid desserts like whole cakes that require knives, plates and forks to eat. It will
make cleanup and serving easier.
Packing the Food
When planning for a picnic, it’s important to keep your cold food cold. A good strategy is to pack 3 separate containers: One insulated cooler for foods that need refrigeration; one insulated cooler with drinks and; one container with items that don’t require refrigeration like napkins, plates, etc.
Food can spoil and harbor bacteria when not stored at the right temperature. Freezable cold packs are ideal for picnics but you can also fill Ziploc bags with ice cubes and pack them around food. Double bagging ice will guard against leaks. Ice bags can chill food at the picnic and then be emptied out before you go, for a lighter trip home.
Cups, plates, napkins and utensils
Depending on your drink choices, you can avoid bringing cups all together if you choose bottled water, juice boxes or canned drinks. Whatever drinks you are serving – take a sharpie with you to write the names on them. That way you will not confuse your cup with someone else’s and, you will use less drinks. Bring a bag for recycles. Don’t forget a bottle opener or corkscrew if you choose beverages that require one.
Go with plates and napkins that are easy for you to use. If you do not mind bringing plastic plates home to wash, bring a plastic bag to put them in. If you want to toss your plates when done, try using ecofriendly ones. Same goes with napkins and utensils.
Serving utensils and Knife
If you are serving salads - you may need to pack serving spoons or tongs.
If you will be needing to cut something like a big sandwich or bread, make sure to bring a knife. Wrap your knife blade in thin cardboard and secure with masking tape before adding it to your bag. This should avoid accidental injuries.
Tablecloth or blanket.
Depending on your location and whether it has a table or not – bring something to cover the table. Inexpensive canvas drop cloths from the hardware store are a great solution. They are heavy duty and won’t blow off most tables. If want to bring a plastic disposable tablecloth, pack a roll of duct tape with your stuff. You can easily tape the corners of the tablecloth down if it is a windy day. If you do not have a table and are going to be on the ground, you can use the duct tape to tape a small rock to each corner to keep your blanket or tablecloth from blowing off.
If you are lucky enough to find a lovely shady area for your picnic-great! If not make sure to apply sunscreen to prevent burns and bring a shade pop up tent or umbrella. You can use duct tape to temporarily secure your umbrella pole to the side of your picnic table.
Duct tape: for securing your tablecloth or umbrella
First Aide Kit
It's best to have a first aide kit on hand at any outdoor event. Cuts, stings, bites and burns do happen and it pays to be prepared.
Make sure you clean up your area when you leave. Supplies to pack that make this easy are:
Paper towels for spills and wiping up messes
Separate bag for recycles
Hand wipes for your guests or you can use paper towels and water